by Julie Bruce
Have you ever felt that God has called you to a certain ministry or task and then when things don’t move as fast as you think they should, you step in and try to “help God out?” My friend, God doesn’t need our help! In the Bible, Abraham and Sarah’s account would be the most likely example to come to mind. God had promised Abraham that he would be a father of many nations. That his seed would outnumber the starts in the sky. They would outnumber the grains of sand. However, as time went by no child was born. Sarah chooses to step in and try to help God out with her plan B and tells Abraham to take her maidservant and to have a child by her (a custom of the day). Abraham does and a son is born. The results of this action have had repercussions throughout the centuries and even into our world today. Let’s look at what it cost Abraham and his family because they chose to help God out in fulfilling his promise to Abraham.
When we step in with Plan B, things can get messy. Because Abraham went along with Sarah’s plan, Hagar became pregnant and Sarah gets jealous. The Bible says that Sarah “dealt harshly with her” so that Hagar ran away. An angel of the Lord found her by a spring in the wilderness and asked her where she was going. Hagar explained what had happened. The angel told her to return and submit to Sarah and promises Hagar that Ishmael would also become a great nation. Hagar returns, but we’ll see it just a moment that Abraham and Sarah’s decision to have their promised child through her would cost her greatly.
When we step in with Plan B, we end up with problems. When Abraham is 100 years old, the promised child is finally born. By this time Ishmael is a teenager. He also is old enough to understand that up to this point he was Abraham’s only child, but born to a servant. This new child was born to Abraham’s wife. He probably also was well aware that little Isaac was the promised child. Can you imagine the sibling rivalry that went on in Abraham’s home? So now he has jealousy between the mothers of his children and an older son very much jealous of the new child.
When we step in with Plan B, we end up with heartache and regret. On the day that Isaac was weaned, Abraham had a great feast to celebrate. Sarah caught Ishmael taunting little Isaac so she demands that Abraham send Hagar and Ishmael away. In Genesis 21:11, the Bible says, “And the matter was very displeasing in Abraham’s sight because of his son.” After all, Ishmael was also his son, his first born son. But God wanted it to be clear which child would be the one that carried the promise and God told Abraham to do as Sarah had asked. However, God promised Abraham that this son would also be a great nation. So Abraham gave water and food to Hagar and Ishmael and sent them away, well aware he would probably never lay eyes on this son again.
Our plan B can have devastating effects on others. Hagar was an Egyptian servant. It wasn’t that Abraham dated her, fell in love, and married her. Instead, he listened to Sarah’s advice and went in to sleep with Hagar. As far as Hagar was concerned, she was not making her own choices, but because of the decisions others made she now has a son and they are being sent away. And what about Ishmael, who was also Abraham’s son? In one day, this first-born son loses everything. He loses his position and his inheritance. He loses his father. He loses his home. He loses his friends. He is sent away by his own father. When the food and water ran out, she and her son were in the desert and she knew they would die. She laid her son under a shrub and went a short distance away and sat down and wept. She couldn’t bare to watch the child die. However, God heard the voice of the boy and he called from Heaven to Hagar, asking her what was wrong. He then opened her eyes to a well and she was able to give him water to drink and God was with Ishmael and He fulfilled his promise to make him a great nation. Without God’s intervention, Hagar and Ishmael would have died in the desert. However, their Plan B, continues to have devastating effects.
Our plan B can have long-lasting effects. As a result of Abraham and Sarah trying to help God out, there has been constant discord between the descents of Ishmael and Isaac, even to today. Ishmael’s descendants are known today as the Arab peoples while Isaac’s descendants are the Jewish nation. All the middle-east are a result of Abraham and Sarah’s Plan B.
My friend, God does not need our plan B to make His plans happen and we only mess things up when we get in His way. Jeremiah 29:11 says, “For I know the plans I have for you”—this is the Lord’s declaration—“plans for your welfare, not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.” So whatever God has called you to do, trust Him. Isaiah 55:9 says, “For as heaven is higher than earth, so My ways are higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts.” Ephesians 3:20 says, “Now to Him who is able to do above and beyond all that we ask or think according to the power that works in us.” So allow God to do His plans His way…for His glory. He really does not need our help to accomplish his plans. When He promises, He will deliver.
God is not a man who lies,
or a son of man who changes His mind.
Does He speak and not act,
or promise and not fulfill?